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Mood swings, characterised by rapid changes in an emotional state, can hit you for several reasons. They can either be a reaction to a stressful situation or environment due to a mental or physical health condition or even for no apparent reason. General moodiness is a normal part of life regardless of what triggers it. However, these seemingly harmless mood swings swiftly become severe in some circumstances, affecting health and daily function.

When frequent or rapid mood shifts start becoming a part of daily life without any cause, or if they endanger your or your loved one’s well-being, behaviour, or function, support from a therapist or another mental health expert must be sought.

Exactly what triggers mood swings is not known. Experts believe that mood variation in a person’s mood usually results from certain chemical reactions in the brain, leading to an underlying imbalance. Other factors such as diet, sleep, medication, and other lifestyle factors may also affect mood stability.

People facing difficulties or life changes are also more likely to experience sudden, unexplained shifts in mood. For instance, many children find themselves experiencing varied mood swings when they hit puberty regarding their acceptance, self-image, and identity. Alternatively, when a person is exposed to high stress levels, even the slightest negative occurrence can easily and abruptly change the mood.

From a medical perspective, the following reasons commonly give rise to mood swings:

  • Hormonal changes and associated issues
  • Dementia, meningitis, brain tumours, and other conditions of the central nervous system
  • Issues of the thyroid
  • Mental health issues, such as depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, addiction, and schizophrenia
  • Conditions that alter the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, such as cardiovascular or lung disease
  • Emotional overwhelm, stress, and other kinds of emotional distress.

Fortunately, mood swings are often treatable with professional help and support. In case of any treatment delays, they may contribute to self-harm, suicidal ideation, and risky behaviours, among other negative effects on health and well-being.

In cases where mood swings are mild to moderate and not associated with risky behaviours, the following strategies can be helpful in managing them at home:

Tracking Moods

Tracking moods can facilitate a better understanding of the changes and shifts in emotions. Keeping a written record of all mood swings in terms of their timeframe, severity, and symptoms can help identify patterns in these shifts. These patterns allow individuals to develop strategies for overcoming mood swings and guide the experts regarding a potential diagnosis.

Exercise

Exercise triggers the use of endorphins, natural chemicals that help manage stress and improve mood. Even mild to moderate-intensity exercise, including walking and jogging, can help relieve the abrupt and frequent mood changes.

Maintain a Schedule

Maintaining a set routine can be extremely helpful in controlling mood swings and help with better regulation of emotional highs and lows.

Healthy Sleep Habits

Sleep is an important determinant of mood. Sleep deprivation can directly impact energy levels and appetite, contributing to irritability, sadness, and general lowness of mood.

Healthy Nutrition

When it comes to regulation of mod, nutrition is a vital component. Getting adequate nutrients while avoiding sugar, caffeine, and alcohol in larger amounts can reduce the frequency of mood swings.

Because mood swings can significantly impact health and well-being, especially when the root cause goes unnoticed, the best solution is to get support from mental health professionals.

Conditions linked with mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, can have a debilitating effect on the mind and body. Therapy is often effective in helping individuals cope with mood swings. Because these mood shifts are not diagnosable and often occur as a symptom of an underlying problem, a mental health professional can be the best person to seek help from. These experts implement several therapies for the exploration of potential causes and help clients devise methods to gain control over the sudden mood changes. Once this is established, often via techniques like meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, and journaling, management becomes easier. 

A therapist can help patients identify whether their mood swings indicate a mental health condition or are due to any other concern. Irrespective of the cause, therapy often assists in identifying every trigger that may cause mood fluctuations. It also equips patients to develop coping strategies to handle stressful situations without experiencing any highs or lows. In therapy, one can also learn to focus on the present moment with a general goal of learning how to maintain a healthy emotional balance and constructively manage mood.

While mood disorders were previously described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) as separate disorders, the latest edition of this psychiatric journal has broken it down into two separate sections, Depressive Disorders and Bipolar Disorders; the conditions that often include mood swings as their primary symptom. While clinical depression is often characterised by persistently low mood, mood fluctuations are also seen in some cases. Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, includes several mood variations such:

  • Euphoric moods
  • Moods that lead to impulsive behaviours
  • Moods that bring about feelings of grandiosity or invincibility

In the case of bipolar disorder, the different types of mood keep cycling from low to high and back to low again. If mood swings are diagnosed as a part of a bigger psychological issue, the treatment for it is slightly different and often requires professional help. In this case, therapy’s primary goal is to resolve the mood swings and the root cause without a medication whenever possible. For some, however, a combination of medication and therapy works best to prevent mood fluctuations and their negative consequences on daily life and function.

Case Example

The following case example can help provide an overview of what to expect from professional treatment under the supervision of a mental health expert:

Sarah, a 25-year-old school teacher, enters therapy due to extreme moodiness. She sometimes complains to her therapist about the extreme tiredness and low spirits that force her to stay in bed for three days in a row. Other times, she feels so escalated and thrilled that she can accomplish anything. However, during these episodes of thrill, she cannot properly focus on any one thing and often finds it hard to sleep at night. Sometimes, she engages in drinking a little more than she would like so that she can sleep peacefully through the night. Sarah also reports to her therapist that her moods often change abruptly, and even though she feels fine most of the time, she can easily lose control of her emotions and overall mood in a blink of an eye. The therapist identifies bipolar disorder as the cause of her symptoms and involves a psychiatrist in her plan of care for a medication evaluation. Sarah seems to be a bit reluctant to take medication but eventually agrees to try it in low doses at the recommendation of a psychiatrist.

Sarah continues to attend therapy to address her low moods and learn to keep track and manage her mood fluctuations. Over the next few weeks, she finds her mood to be fairly stable, and her sleep schedule normalises. She mentions how she no longer needs alcohol to sleep, and her depressive thoughts are finally over. She continues therapy to achieve long-term recovery without the need for medication.

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